Come hail or sleet, medical supplies must get through

The logistics and supply chain sector, nurtured by the Economic Development Board, is a key contributor to Singapore’s economy. It offers a rich variety of career prospects, too. Arti Mulchand profiles some of the people working in the sector. 

When severe Arctic blasts caused a colder-than-usual winter across the mid-Atlantic region of the United States at the end of last year, freezing temperatures in Maryland sent shivers through the supply chain for medical products, especially at global medical technology company BD. 

The deep freeze was affecting shipping vessels scheduled to transport BD's products around the world, including to Asia.

"We had to figure out which countries could wait until the next sea shipment and which had to be serviced urgently by air freight.

"We couldn't control the weather, so we needed to manage it," recalls Ms Gladys Koh, 34, who has been a regional demand planner with BD since 2010.

She works with the firm's country planners to match demand and supply for its products, while identifying risks or opportunities within each market.

Even when the weather plays along, her job is not always a breeze. The company might be able to get the goods to a country but run into bottlenecks as it goes through Customs, she notes.

After receiving a diploma in electronics from Nanyang Polytechnic in 2001, Ms Koh started working life as a sales coordinator at a small IT company. She then joined the oil and gas sector.

There, she got her first taste of logistics while coordinating work for various departments, from warehousing to delivery.

Six years ago, drawn by BD's focus on health care and its community outreach efforts, she moved to the company to handle supply chain management for its South-east Asia operations.

While at this post, she studied for a part-time degree in science (logistics) with Kaplan Singapore and graduated in 2012.

"I wanted to get a degree to build on my basic understanding of supply chain management," she says. "I felt it would help me get the country teams to open up and share their strategies. Knowing what they want and need helps us plan better."

Since graduating, she has seen her job scope widen beyond South-east Asia.

The best part of her job, she says, is seeing first-hand how her performance has a direct impact on patients' lives.

"I get to see how meeting ever-changing customer needs directly affects their well-being. It gives me a sense of purpose."

This article was first published on Oct 13, 2014

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